Aberdeen will join Hoquiam, Montesano and Elma in a combined Class 2A/1A league for most sports beginning next fall.
Evergreen 1A League members unanimously voted Wednesday to grant membership to Aberdeen, Rochester and Eatonville in a multi-classification circuit for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, Montesano athletic director Tim Trimble confirmed Friday.
Aberdeen officials accepted the invitation later Wednesday, according to AHS athletic director Ken Ashlock. The Bobcats and Rochester (currently a Class 1A school that will move up to the 2A ranks in the next reclassification cycle) will be the 2A members of the league.
They will join Class 1A Hoquiam, Elma, Montesano, Tenino, Forks and Eatonville in the eight-team circuit. Eatonville, which currently competes in the District III Nisqually League, petitioned to transfer to District IV.
“From a 1A standpoint, we think it makes for a great league for Evergreen 1A/2A,” Trimble said. “The locality of the schools, the level of competition. It’s going to be a great opportunity for all of us.”
A few details need to be worked out at the district and state level, but Ashlock and Trimble both characterized the new alignment as essentially a done deal.
Aberdeen is currently a member of the Evergreen 2A Conference in every sport except football. The Bobcats played in the Greater St. Helens 2A League in football the past two years.
Administrators at AHS hope to continue Evergreen 2A membership in girls swimming and boys tennis, two sports the Evergreen 1A circuit does not offer.
Ashlock said the difficulty of competing against larger schools in some sports in the rugged Evergreen 2A Conference prompted a desire to switch leagues.
In conversations with Superintendent Dr. Tom Opstad, “we agreed it’s real hard for us to compete for a league championship in terms of where we’re at athletically, Ashlock said. “We know going in (in some sports), we’re competing for fourth or fifth (in the Evergreen 2A circuit).”
By reuniting with Hoquiam in league play and and facing such area schools as Elma and Montesano on a more regular basis, Ashlock hopes home attendance and turnout numbers will increase.
“We feel we will have bigger crowds, gain more school spirit,” he said. “We’ll be playing rival schools in our area. When we play Hoquiam now, it will be a league game.”
All games in the combined circuit would count in the league standings and the 2A schools would be eligible for league championships, Trimble confirmed.
Although Aberdeen’s enrollment is double the size of the smallest Evergreen 1A members, few public objections have been lodged to their membership in a combined circuit from 1A schools.
“That has not been a big issue,” Trimble related. “This is a great league and it will provide us with a great level of competition.”
Aberdeen and Rochester have been guaranteed access to some form of postseason 2A competition, according to Ashlock, but the operational details have yet to be determined.
Some type of district play-in system will likely be devised, possibly combined with the 2A teams being required to meet a performance standard in regular-season competition.
Aberdeen considered several options before the new alignment was proposed.
Expanding its membership to the Greater St. Helens 2A League in all sports wasn’t feasible, according to Ashlock.
“They weren’t interested in having us for everything,” the AHS athletic director said. “Having Woodland (a 1A school that has been reclassified 2A) pop back into the league, they didn’t really need us.”
At one juncture, there was serious discussion of dividing Southwest Washington 2A schools into large-school and small-school leagues. Several factors scuttled those talks, according to Ashlock. One reason was that Elma, which was briefly projected as a 2A school, will remain in the 1A class.
There are also changes ahead for the Class 2B Pacific League.
Ilwaco will replace Naselle (which is dropping to the 1B class) as a league member, South Bend athletic director Tom Sanchez reported. The relocation of three District III schools (Tacoma Baptist, Chief Leschi and Life Christian) to District IV and Rainier’s drop to the Class 2B ranks could result in possible league expansion, although the exact league breakdown has yet to be determined.
Willapa Valley, which is Class 1B-size in enrollment, again opted up to play as a 2B school, athletic director John Peterson confirmed.
The status of area Class 1B schools, who have been operating as independents following the dissolution of the Coastal League last December, remains in limbo.
Lake Quinault principal and athletic director Keith Samplawski wrote in an email recently that Quinault would not be joining a league next year.